Senator asks drugmakers to explain prices

A pharmacist looks through shelving to fill a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York December 23, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate Democrat asked top drugmakers on Wednesday to explain why Americans pay higher prices for prescription drugs than patients do in other developed nations.

Senator Herb Kohl, who chairs the Special Committee on Aging, sent letters to AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi-Aventis

Kohl said Americans on average pay twice as much as people in other industrialized countries.

“While I firmly believe that drug quality should not be sacrificed for cost, the large discrepancies in the cost of identical drugs cannot be explained by differences in production or manufacturing,” Kohl wrote in letters to the companies.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn